eMpowering Youth Across ASEAN: Cohort 2 success story of Camille Joyce Lisay and Ronalisa Santiago
The Improvement of Livelihood Center in All Lights Village in Sitio Tamale, Nueva Ecija, Philippines, is part of the eMpowering Youth Across ASEAN (EYAA) Cohort 2 Program. Among the other nine projects implemented across ASEAN during the pandemic, the ASEAN Foundation and Maybank Foundation aim to improve the lives of one million households across ASEAN by 2025. Specifically, the Cohort 2 program is dedicated and committed to youth empowerment across ASEAN.
The success of the projects is recognized by all of the young entities who participated in learning about farming organic mushrooms as an alternative source of income. Camille Joyce Lisay, a 24-year-old Filipino, and Ronalisa Santiago, a twenty years old student from Nueva Ecija University of Science and Technology, took part in this initiative. Both in their twenties, they join the program due to different reasons. Camille decided to participate in the program as the narratives struck her on the struggle of living in a far-flung area and that alternative sources of livelihood for the indigenous community are limited. In contrast, Ronalisa joined because she wanted to find a better opportunity with the skills gained from the program. Like most other people in the area, her family, among other low-income families from the site, has no stable sources of income as they rely upon growing seasons as they are farmers. She says, “If it is not the harvesting season, the men in our community work at construction sites or farm other people’s lands.” In addition, the eMpowering Youth Across ASEAN (EYAA) Cohort 2 Program differs from other existing programs because its primary target beneficiaries are youths in the village. The traditional learning path of farming is hand-down knowledge from senior family members. Although this method is suitable, learning through youth-friendly programs can provide intangible benefits while retaining the newest farming methods from experts. Hence, Ronalisa was keen to be the direct student entering the program.
The project revolves around providing technical training on organic mushroom production, which improved the local employment rate by 30%. The project also helped indigenous youth in Sitio Tamale to build their entrepreneurial skills. Throughout the project, Camille, who currently serves as Senior Communications Associate at COMCO Southeast Asia, has gained a massive and immersive experience throughout the program. She took a role as the Project Controller of the project, and she went there personally since she was assigned to a project situated in her home country, the Philippines. Camille oversaw the implementation of the project, where they taught the Sitio Tamale youths how to farm organic mushrooms. Ronalisa, as the beneficiary of the program, admitted that the project positively impacted the livelihood of her and others in the community. The program allows Ronalisa to find an organization that will help her and youths like herself to learn skills and meet with organizations that can provide resources to improve their living conditions. Ronalisa’s parents are both farmers, and the traditional learning method was learning how to farm directly from her parent.
Before gaining fruitful success, there were challenges that both met at different stages of participation. As a project implementor, Camille admitted that she and her co-fellow faced several problems, such as intermittent internet connection, unfavourable weather conditions, and COVID-19 restrictions. Despite the challenges, Camille and her team find solutions to the problems. In specific, to solve the issue of intermittent internet connection, youth participants transported local people from the mountainous upland of Sitio Tamale to the headquarters of Ako ang Saklay Inc. This solution’s purpose is to provide an environment that can best maximize the livelihood training and learning experience. By facing such hurdles, she earned valuable experience that helped sharpen her problem-solving skills hands-only. For Ronalisa, it is about grasping the opportunity and meeting many peoples to exchange and make friends. Given her and many other youths’ socioeconomic background, learning the skills and how to utilize them as a potential source of income is a challenge and a success if she can implement them after the training.
Overall, these constant changes and crisis management allows Camille to attain new skills that cannot necessarily be taught in class. On a related note, Ronalisa was able to get an experience outside of her usual approach to learning and on the path to becoming more resilient as an individual. Both highlight the importance of education, whether vocational, upskilling, or reskilling. Regardless of whether they are the implementor or beneficiary, all members who are a part of this program aided in closing the gap in access to education. The EYAA Program has created changes in the lives of hundreds of young people like Ronalisa. As such, the ASEAN Foundation and Maybank Foundation decided to continue their commitment and dedication to youth empowerment across ASEAN by preparing the launch of Cohort 3 later this year.
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